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Friday, August 8, 2008

This is a rest day at Lüsse. The morning sky looked promising, and we set to work rigging gliders that in many cases showed evidence (e.g straw in the landing gear) of yesterday’s outlandings. But scales were not deployed at the normal time (8:30), so it was not possible to place gliders on the launch grid before the morning pilot meeting (always at 10:00) – definitely a sign of trouble. At the meeting we heard a prediction of high winds and thunderstorms by mid-afternoon, and in response, tasks for all classes were canceled. We marched out grimly to de-rig.

By 11:00, soaring conditions looked very good. The sky at noon could easily have been sold at the rate of $100 a minute to any of about 110 pilots at 5pm yesterday – beautiful flat-bottomed cumulus extended to the horizon in every direction. But by 1pm the wisdom to the cancellation was evident – thunder was rumbling and rain was bucketing down.

Tomorrow marks the halfway point of the contest, and the evening event is a “halfway party”. We don’t know quite what to expect, but we’ve bought tickets on the promise of food and beer. Speaking of which, I’ll note that last night’s event was the much-awaited German Team party. As all but the hopelessly naïve would have expected, the greedy Open-class pilots (the only finishers) and their crews rapidly sucked down all the food (said to have been three roast piglets). To their great credit, the German Team had laid on enough beer that some still remained for the short-wingers straggling in from many retrieves.

This evening’s event is a lecture by Klaus Ohlmann on his experiences flying in wave over the Andes from sites in Argentina. As most glider people know, he has entirely re-written the record book with flights as long as 3000 km (your correspondent is one whose record he broke). I expect this event will be well attended.

Tomorrow we will have tasks (if today’s view of the weather proves accurate) and also a grand airshow, for which we’re told to expect up to 10,000 spectators. The handling of this mob should be interesting. Ample parking space seems to be available (there is, after all, a nicely burned wheat field nearby). What to expect as these folks overrun the airfield is certainly a question. We have been issued ID badges of an elaborate design; these will hopefully distinguish us from hoi polloi tomorrow.

I must note that I believe I’ve now seen a Great Bustard. This was a huge, lumbering bird flying along a tree line at the northeast edge of the airfield yesterday, showing a longish neck, very broad wings, and a lot of white underneath. I’m not sure this sighting was good enough to be definite, but I think it can be considered probable.

I’ve been asked to explain what was the controversy surrounding the decision to allow Georg Theisinger to use a new glider after his ASW-27 was damaged in an outlanding collision with a deer. The general rule is that exchange of a glider or a major component (wing, fuselage, horizontal tail) is not allowed – in case of damage, you must repair your glider or not fly. In this case, it was ruled that the presence of the deer (and thus the damage from the collision) was something outside the responsibility of the pilot. This is certainly defensible but it’s a bit of a reach, as the same sort of thing could be said about many of the things that cause outlanding damage: stumps, holes in the ground, rocks, wires. A somewhat harsher view is that fields that contain crops sometimes have hidden hazards, and that a pilot should be responsible for doing field selection with sufficient time and care that the possibility of damage from these is minimized. Certainly there can be few places in the world that offer a better choice of excellent landable fields than the area around Lüsse.